We’ve written about some pretty amazing and elaborate puzzle hunts here in the past. There was the Gravity Falls cipher hunt that led to an actual statue of the show’s villain Bill Cipher in the woods of Reedsport, Oregon. (And a mayoral position for the first person to find him and shake his hand!) There was the puzzle-turned-global-scavenger hunt from Trials Evolution that won’t be completed until 2113 at the base of the Eiffel Tower.
And now, a massive crowdsourcing effort has cracked another masterpiece, a puzzle hidden in an expansion pack for the video game Destiny 2. Destiny 2 is an online first-person-shooter loaded with sci-fi trappings and in-depth storytelling where players explore a shared environment while engaging in their own personal plot and adventures.
The most recent expansion to the game, Warmind, was released last week, and players noticed an elaborate symbol on a wall in the bunker of Rasputin, a sentient robot. The symbol appeared to be a lock surrounded by keys and curious symbols.
This Kotaku post went live on Friday, three days after the Warmind release, revealing the incredible online effort already in motion to unravel the secrets of the Rasputin puzzle. The subreddit r/raidsecrets was ground zero for the puzzle-solving efforts, and players compiled their theories and discoveries there.
Players quickly determined that each of the keys had a symbol that linked back to other imagery from the game, and by following those breadcrumbs, they had a chance to crack the cipher.
The first symbol was found in several places, each time with a set of digits and a bar in a particular position. Solvers theorized that these symbols represented the word “reverse.”
The second symbol appeared beside a Braille grid, leading hunters to crates with Braille lettering on them: OEAARRTFWTH. This anagrams to The Art of War, Sun Tzu’s famous tome. In this case, The Art of War was used as the source material for an Ottendorf Cipher. (That particular cipher was made famous by Nicolas Cage’s National Treasure movies.)
This type of cipher uses numbers in groups of three, and these numbers correspond to positions of letters in a book. Most often the numbers refer to Line, Word, and Letter. Decoding the number-combinations in the image above led to the answer “Destroy all second A and B. Then destroy all third C and R.”
These two clues were assumed to be instructions for what to do with the encoded ciphertext others had discovered in the game:
This encrypted message was the heart of the puzzle. But there was more to uncover first.
As it turns out, the last three keys in the image represented different words to apply to the ciphertext in order to properly decode it.
The fourth symbol was found near a Morse Code sequence that spelled out “NTEHNMLNEEGIT,” an anagram for “Enlightenment.”
The fifth symbol pointed toward a monitor with some peculiar code on it. It turns out the code was actually Jianpu, an ancient form of Chinese notation for writing music. When translated into actual music, a player identified the piece as an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
One intrepid codebreaker then tried to decrypt the ciphertext given the clues everyone had assembled thus far.
He reversed the ciphertext, according to the instruction of the first key. He then removed every other A and every other B from the text, then every third C and every third R, according to the instructions of the second key.
Then, employing a Vigenere cipher, he used the two key words he had — “enlightenment” and “swan lake” — to begin decrypting the text. He managed to decrypt the entire text, but more incredibly, he also reverse engineered the missing third key word — “mechanized” — while doing so.
And what was the final message, after all this?
thank you for taking the time to piece together this message, friend. the time of our final conflict is drawing closer and you and ana have an important role to play in the events to come. so watch over her, guardian. i would have no life without ana or the exoprogram. i regret that we have become strangers, but we each have a path that we must walk. and, ironically, there never seems to be enough time. tell her, rasputin’s first attempt was in the right location, but the wrong moment. look here: 43.549573, -73.544868 – e
As you might suspect, those numbers at the end are GPS coordinates, which correspond to Sleeping Beauty Mountain in upstate New York. (The company that developed Warmind, Vicarious Visions, is based in upstate New York.)
A small treasure trove of prizes awaited the brave soul who trekked out to Sleeping Beauty Mountain on Saturday morning. The centerpiece was a giant spear, a replica of a weapon from the game known as the Valkyrie.
From the Kotaku article following up on the puzzle’s resolution:
There was also a box of gold coins (along with instructions asking the finder to only take one), a set of notes, and a journal for recording visitors. The note, from Warmind design lead Rob Gallerani, encouraged the finder(s) to share photos of this discovery and told them that there are only three spears like that in existence — one at Vicarious Visions, one at Bungie, and this.
The spear, shown above (alongside the visiting team from Vicarious Visions) now resides at a comic shop called The Freakopolis Geekery.
As for the gold coins and the geocache Vicarious Visions had set up for others who make the trip, unfortunately, park rangers removed it because the designers didn’t get a permit. The coins have been returned to Vicarious Visions, who are currently reaching out to all the folks at r/raidsecrets who contributed to the solution of the puzzle, hoping to get them the coins they so richly deserve.
And, as if all that wasn’t amazing enough, it turns out… this might not be the end of the adventure.
Because a sharp-eyed observer noticed some text embossed on the upper portion of the replica Valkyrie spear:
At the moment, no one knows what the letters mean. But if I had to wager, I’d say the master puzzle solvers at r/raidsecrets should keep digging. Who knows what they’ll find next?
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